DIOCESE OF SAN DIEGO CA
Date: February 24, 2004
Re: A Report on Sexual Abuse by Priests in the Diocese of San Diego
As promised, I am hereby presenting a report, based on the data available to us, regarding the problem of sexual abuse by priests in the Diocese of San Diego from January 1, 1950, through December 31, 2003. This period of 54 years includes the first 29 years of what became in 1978 the Diocese of San Bernardino.
Slightly over 2000 priests have been in ministry here
Sixty priests have been accused of the crime of sexual abuse, 4 of whom are believed to have been falsely accused and another 14 without substantiation.
Of the 42 priests with allegations that have been substantiated or are credible, 21 are deceased, and 21 have left or been removed from ministry.
A total of 128 people have made allegations of sexual abuse against these 42 priests. Twenty of these priests have only one reported allegation against them; 7 priests account for 100 alleged victims (78% of the total).
A breakdown of alleged victims according to when their abuse began is as follows:
1950 to 1959 - 31
Accurate financial information in reference to cases of sexual abuse is available only from 1990 to December 31, 2003. For this period, there have been the following expenditures:
Diocesan assistance to victims/families $ 324,170.71
Diocesan payments $ 1,034,250.00
We have litigation pending as a result of legislation which, for the year 2003, eliminated in California the statue of limitations for sexual abuse claims. At the present time, however, we still are not certain of the exact number of accused priests or alleged victims. This is because a number of lawsuits filed against the diocese have not yet been served. From the data available, we can only estimate that there are lawsuits involving approximately 40 priests and about 100 alleged victims. Insofar as possible, these are included in the figures given above.
Once again, I continue to offer the opportunity of pastoral resolution to victims of sexual abuse without regard to the status of pending litigation. I am aware that the financial component is at times an important concern, but it should not be overemphasized. Far more important is the healing being accomplished through counseling and the reconciliation realized through apologies offered to victims for the serious failures they experienced by Church ministers. Victims who have accepted our pastoral outreach confirm that it better respects faith and family and is very effective in accomplishing healing and reconciliation.
We are implementing in every way the Charter for the Protection of Youth and Young People. According to our Policy on Sexual Abuse by Church Ministers:
The Diocese of San Diego is committed to prevent sexual abuse and to maintain a safe environment for children and young people.
The Diocese of San Diego is committed to deal appropriately with allegations and cases of sexual abuse.
The Diocese of San Diego is committed, above all, to reach out with pastoral
concern and care to victims of sexual abuse and their families, and to
promote healing and reconciliation with them.
By Sandi Dolbee
Sixty local priests have been accused of sexual abuse since 1950, according to statistics released yesterday by the diocese. The diocese said 18 of those priests were either falsely accused or the claims against them could not be substantiated.
That left 42 priests with accusations from 128 people that have been "substantiated or are credible," wrote Bishop Robert Brom in a two-page letter to local priests.
There were about 2,000 priests in ministry here over those years.
A church official said yesterday that the diocese was jolted by the findings.
"Yes, we are surprised. We did not expect the numbers to be this large," said Rodrigo Valdivia, the diocese's chancellor.
As for the financial impact, legal settlements since 1990 have reached almost $3.8 million, with the diocese paying about $1 million and insurance paying $2.7 million, according to Brom's letter. Another $75,000 was covered by religious orders and offenders.
In addition, some $533,000 was spent on ministering to victims, their families and the accused priests, according to the report. Legal fees cost approximately $166,000, with insurance paying all but about $43,000.
"I am aware that the financial component is at times an important concern, but it should not be overemphasized," Brom wrote in his letter to priests. "Far more important is the healing being accomplished through counseling and reconciliation realized through apologies offered to victims for the serious failures they experienced by Church ministers."
Valdivia said the diocese did not go beyond 1990 for the financial impact because the records are incomplete.
"It would be very, very difficult, if not impossible, to estimate," he said.
San Diego's statistics were made public three days before a first-ever nationwide survey on clergy sexual abuse in the Catholic Church's 195 U.S. dioceses is expected to be released. The church-commissioned compilation due out Friday is being assembled by the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York, based on data provided by the dioceses.
The nationwide survey is expected to show that roughly 4 percent of the nation's priests have been accused of molestation. If that's true, San Diego's diocese would be below the average.
But the local numbers are higher than those in some of the other dioceses in the state, according to The Associated Press, which has been tracking the diocesan figures as they are released. For example, the Sacramento diocese reported 21 accused priests and 38 cases, while the Oakland diocese reported 29 accused clergy and 72 cases. The Archdiocese of Los Angeles, the nation's largest Catholic diocese, reported 244 accused clergy and 656 claims.
Critics yesterday complained that the San Diego information was too sketchy and had no details about the accusations or names of the accused priests.
"It's difficult to respond in any meaningful way to this report because it is so cryptic and lacks adequate explanation," said Irwin Zalkin, a Del Mar attorney representing several dozen alleged victims.
Raymond Boucher, a Beverly Hills lawyer who is the liaison for the dozens of attorneys who have filed suits against dioceses across Southern California, said a more complete report would have named the offending priests, listed the parishes and church facilities where the incidents took place, and explained why some allegations were deemed false or not credible.
A.W. Richard Sipe, a La Jolla therapist, former Benedictine monk and the author of the recently released book "Celibacy in Crisis," also had questions about the categories.
"Who deems they are credible or not?" he asked.
Sipe noted that the data was self-reported by the diocese.
"Self-evaluations and self-accounts always minimize, every researcher will tell you that," he said.
Jaime Romo, spokesman for the local chapter of the victims' rights group, Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, was likewise disappointed.
"We can't deal with something when we don't know what we're dealing with," he said.
Valdivia said the numbers were gathered by checking files and lawsuits. He said 14 were categorized as unsubstantiated after the diocese was unable to get any corroboration. Another four are believed by the diocese to be false, he said. As for the remaining 42, "they have supporting evidence. The points of the story hold water, so to speak."
Most of the allegations – 110 – involve incidents that occurred between 1950 and 1979. Seven priests account for 100 alleged victims.
Brom's letter reports no accusations from 2000 to 2003. Valdivia suggests this means that "some of the efforts that have been made by the church to address this matter have been effective."
The numbers released yesterday could change in light of lawsuits filed last year during a special law in this state that expired Dec. 31. Plaintiffs lawyers say the Diocese of San Diego was named in 99 lawsuits last year. The diocese said it has yet to be served with all of them.
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